Human capacity for creativity and beauty almost always leaves me in awe. Our brains provide us with the ability to create and build this amazingly complex world that you and I are enjoying at this very minute. Even when the majority of us don’t understand how any of it works. I press some keys here in my office and you read these words on a screen practically anywhere you want to. And all of this equipment communicates without being physically attached to any other equipment. And it’s not magic. Someone out there understands how this all works. It amazes me.
The photo used at the top of the post today isn’t actually a landscape with a waterfall that’s been edited or created digitally. It’s all created within an aquarium and the effects are made by adding powders to the water and accenting it with lighting. You can find more works by the artist Kim Keever on the artist’s website.
There is a common and mildly annoying sentiment traveling across social media that goes like this, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body.” I understand the sentiment. We all want to feel special, unique and as if we are a once in a million year event. We also want to feel as if that uniqueness, that special “je ne sais quoi” is going to live on forever. I’m not going to tread too deeply into the afterlife on this tangent except to say that I personally don’t believe anything transcends the material world. In my worldview, if something can not be measured, it does not belong in the same discussion as things that can.
Back to our bodies and the idea that we are more than our material makeup. In a sense I agree, if it were somehow possible to transfer your brain into another body, not much would change. The sound of your voice. Probably the nuances of the mannerisms of your movement and maybe some facial expression. But you would be you. As ridiculous as that might sound, one Italian doctor is interested in making the nightmare a reality. So you are more than just your body, but at the same time, you could damage your brain in such a way so that you no longer recognize faces. Even this part of us that seems immaterial is bound to the materials we are made of.
So we are a collection of materials that come together for a unique moment to compose us. In time, we will die and all of those molecules, maybe even down to the atomic level, they will separate and join up with other molecules to make up something else. But for this brief moment in time, they make up you and me. That’s beautiful to me.
That collection of materials comes together to create some of the most beautiful things this world has ever seen. Every painting you’ve seen, every song you’ve heard and every book you’ve read was created by someone using the gray matter in their skull to control their muscle and bones to create a thing of beauty.
Here’s the thing about it to me. I don’t think I draw less beauty out of the world simply because I don’t see anything magical or supernatural about our ability to create beauty. I don’t think a beautiful starry night looks less beautiful to us than it might to folks who don’t know that stars are just big balls of fusion like our Sun. I don’t think a diamond seems any less beautiful or rare knowing that it is just a perfectly aligned crystal composed of carbon atoms. And I don’t think language, speech and spoken poetry are less wonderful because the sounds are made by simply moving two folds of tissue and placing the tongue and mouth a certain way while pushing air out of the lungs. In fact, I might even argue that looking at the world through that lens makes everything a little more beautiful, a little more amazing. Not only is it an amazing thing that the human species is capable of communicating using speech in multiple languages, singing opera or reciting Shakespeare but I think it is more amazing that we understand the mechanics of how it is possible. And it’s terribly simple. Vibration of air as it passes through a tunnel that changes shape. Here’s a video of some vocal folds at work. Amazing right?
While I understand the sentiment that being a soul who has a body is a great way to focus on the person you are. Remembering that you are a body that has a mind and the ability to do great things with that mind seems like a way more satisfying approach to life and provides you with the perspective that you get this chance, this life and that’s it. Make it what you want it to be now.
Thanks for reading.